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Finding King Arthur - Part 15

Title: Finding King Arthur (temporary until I find something better)
Author: [info]elfflame
Fandom: Merlin (BBC)
Rating: R-ish (leaning towards NC-17) now.
Summary: Things have gone bad in Camelot.  Arthur has been missing for a year, and Uther and Gaius have been poisoned.  Merlin and the knights of Camelot set out to find their Prince before the kingdom can be claimed by Morgana.
Warnings: Death (not Merlin or Arthur), minor spoilers for season 3.
A/N: Three more bits today.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14

"You're just out to drive me mad today, aren't you?" he asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "What am I going to do with you?"

Arthur'd sat up as well, and now he moved closer, grinning. "You could distract me…"

"Right. And have them walk in on us?"

Arthur paled. "Oh. Right."

"Yeah…I didn't think so." He got out of bed. "Well…at least I can get dressed…"

Arthur made a disappointed noise.

"It's your own fault, you know," Merlin told him as he pulled on his trousers and changed into a new shirt. "You should have taken advantage of me when you woke up, instead of pacing the room first. Then we wouldn't have to worry about whether or not they'd catch us…"

"Well, I wasn't exactly thinking clearly, now, was I?" Arthur asked, moving behind him and sliding a hand under his shirt from behind to stroke his chest. He nuzzled at Merlin's neck, and it was incredibly hard not to just give in and let Arthur do what he liked. It all felt so good.

"Stop that. Gwen'll be here shortly. Do you really want her seeing that?"

Arthur released him with a huff. "Fine. Like you don't enjoy it…"

"That's not the point." And the thought that eventually he'd have to give it up hurt. He pushed it back into the recesses of his mind where he could deal with it later. Today was too important. "Now… Maybe we should…"

He stopped at the knock on the door. Gwen usually just came in after knocking, but when the door didn't open, Merlin went to see if she needed help. It wasn't Gwen.

"Sir Agravaine."

The knight looked surprised to see Merlin at the door, then frowned for a moment before smiling in a vaguely unfriendly sort of way. "I was sent to escort…'Wart?'" He shook his head and glanced at Arthur. "It seems an odd nickname for the Crown Prince to be using…"

Arthur was quick to put on his best 'Wart' expression. "Well…Merlin here still hasn't fully convinced me that I am who he seems to think. I felt more comfortable using my own name on the lists. Just in case."

Agravaine looked bemused, the expression almost a half-smirk. "Of course, 'Wart.' Probably for the best," he said. "So…shall we? Or did you want Merlin to follow along?" He said, glancing at Merlin with an expression not far from a sneer.

"Follow?" Arthur asked.

"Yes. Down to the field. I'm here to show you the general layout, since you're not familiar with it."

Merlin's eyes narrowed. And to make sure Arthur didn't make it out onto the field, he was sure. "We're waiting for the others."

"Oh, other knights have been sent to gather them," he assured them.

"Have they?" Arthur made the question sound so earnest, Merlin almost believed it. "Well…yes…I'd like Merlin to come with us, at least. But…I haven't had breakfast yet…"

"Ah, well…Merlin can take care of that, too…while I show you around, he can go get it."

Merlin knew that wasn't going to happen. Until Arthur was on the field, he wasn't about to leave his side. "Actually, there's some bread left from last night," he told Arthur. "You could just have that…"

Agravaine scowled, then sneered at Merlin. "What kind of breakfast is that for a fighter? He needs meat."

"Yes, well, as he's going down to the field, he won't be able to sit down to eat it, so…I guess he can't, now, can he?" And there was no way in hell Merlin would leave Arthur alone with the knight. Even if Arthur didn't trust him, that didn't mean the man couldn't catch him by surprise when they were alone.

"No…it's all right, Agravaine," Arthur said before the knight could argue more with Merlin. "Bread will do. Really." He moved to the remains of the tray, picking up the heel of bread from their supper the night before. "I doubt I could stomach more."

Merlin didn't like the glint in Agravaine's eye at that, but he said nothing, and began to gather Arthur's things. He was pleased to see that Arthur had already picked up Excalibur, and was belting it around his waist.

"Someone going to attack us in the halls?" Agravaine said. Merlin could tell he was forcing the amusement in his voice. Had he hoped that Arthur would go down to the field unarmed?

Arthur shrugged. "You never know. Aren't castles always filled with court intrigues? That's what Hector always says…"

It was surprisingly disarming, and Merlin had to hide the smirk the answer brought to his face, turning away to pick up Arthur's shield and wishing he could use his magic to carry everything down. At least it wasn't his full suit today. Tomorrow would be much harder. He'd have to make certain that there was a page to help him with the full suit of armor. He managed by putting the helmet on his own head, then draping the plate over one shoulder, and then turned back to Arthur, who was just finishing the bread.

"There," Arthur said. "All ready to go." He smiled at Agravaine, who seemed less than pleased.

"Well, then…" He glanced at Merlin, then rolled his eyes, and headed towards the door, leaving the two of them to follow.

Arthur glanced at Merlin, obviously biting back a chuckle, then nodded at him and followed Agravaine, leaving Merlin to bring up the rear.

Agravaine did his best to lose Merlin as they made their way to the door leading out to the field. He only managed once, and that because the helmet fell off Merlin's head, and he had to stop to pick everything up before he could follow them again. He caught up quick enough, though, and Arthur seemed all right, so he didn't worry about it. Too much, anyway.

The field itself was packed with men of all shapes and sizes, and to Merlin's eyes, abilities as well. Some of them looked as though they'd only come to fight because they were forced. Others looked at those around them as though they were disappointed that the fight had not started yet. A few men had scraps of cloth hanging from their arms. Obviously tokens from admirers or sweethearts. And pages and squires scurried back and forth, helping the men get ready and delivering messages of various sorts.

It was a madhouse, really.

Agravaine led them past several tents packed with men pulling on armor, and one tent which Elaine sat in front of, looking a bit grim and reminding Merlin that several of these men might not walk off the field today. Even sure Arthur wouldn't be one of them, he promised himself he'd wait with her through at least the first fight. So long as Arthur was with Gwaine and Lancelot.

He gave her a quick smile, and she returned it, nodding to him before he was out of sight.

They stopped in front of a smaller tent, and Merlin recognized it as Arthur's personal tent. He was surprised it had been set up. There didn't seem to be enough room to spare, but here it was.

"Here's your tent, Arthur. And if you have any questions…feel free to send a page for me," Agravaine told him.

"Of course. And…Thank you, Agravaine." He went into the tent, and after a glance at Agravaine, Merlin followed, grateful to be able to put everything down again.

The Melee

Once Arthur was dressed, the two headed out to the field where the other combatants were lining up as well. They found Gwaine and Lancelot, and Arthur settled between them, giving Merlin a nod before looking out over the field.

Merlin walked back up the line of men waiting to go out onto the field. Some had on full armor, while others only had leather plate. It was likely they'd be the first to go. The ones in full armor wearing out before their fellows, and the ones in leather cut down by those who were better protected in mail and plate.

It was going to be a massacre. Merlin sighed, then shook his head, heading toward the tent where he'd seen Elaine, and found her there, talking to Gwen. "Is this where the secret supporters of Arthur are supposed to stand?" he asked jokingly.

Elaine smiled at him. "You seem in a good mood. I take it he's ready, then?"

"As ready as he can be." He glanced at Gwen. "We missed you this morning."

She scowled. "I was…detained. Lady Morgana needed extra help this morning…" Her eyes narrowed. "I don't know who she thinks she's fooling…"

Elaine made a sympathetic noise. "Well, it will all be over soon, right? When Arthur wins?"

"We can all hope," Merlin answered. "That, and that your talents won't need to be used for more than simple bandages today," he added.

"Likely a vain hope," she said, looking over at the mass of men still gathering at the side of the field.

Gwen followed her gaze. "So many. I think this is more than the first two tournaments put together."

"Likely because it's the last," Merlin said. "I bet a lot of these came from far away, and it took some time to get here. And others hoped that a bit of extra training before coming would give them the upper hand…"

Elaine sighed. "Meaning that plenty of them only think they know what they're doing…"

"Well…you have us to help with whatever happens. Right, Merlin?" Gwen asked.

"And as many pages as you can draft into service," Merlin said with a nod.

"I just hope that will be enough," she said, eyeing the men lined up once more. "What if…"

Before she could complete the sentence, a seneschal was walking out onto the field. The crowd went quiet.

"Gentlemen," he called out. "You are here to compete for a place in the new kingdom of Camelot." He glanced up at Morgana, who sat in the royal box looking the most regal Merlin had ever seen her. It made him ache for the days when she had been a friend he could be proud of. "The lady Morgana wishes you all good luck, and hopes that you will do yourselves proud.

"But only the best can be chosen to serve. This round will determine who will be allowed to compete. You will be split into three groups who will fight until only ten remain. Once all three groups have finished their battles, those who remain will be allowed time to recuperate until tomorrow, when they will battle in pairs until only five remain. And on the final day, those five will battle the ten who have previously won the honour in our previous tourneys this year. Only five will be allowed to serve as knights, regardless of name or rank.

"But battle honorably. Those who distinguish themselves in battle may be allowed a place as well." The seneschal looked up at Morgana, who nodded, then turned back to the line of men waiting to be let onto the field.

He glanced down to the far end of the line, then nodded at the guards there, who began to let the men there trickle onto the field. After a few minutes, they stopped the next man in line, and the seneschal looked around at them, then moved back to the edge of the field. "You may fight until you have fallen, or until you receive a visible wound. Anyone fighting to kill will be taken from the field in chains."

The last command surprised Merlin. He'd expected dirty play not only to be ignored, but to be rampant on the field. Apparently anything Morgana had planned would be subtle, then. But then, that was her way. To smile to your face, but plot behind closed doors. Still, that meant she wasn't likely to attack Arthur here in the open. Or at least, so Merlin could hope.

"Are the rules clear to everyone?" The seneschal looked around as the men on the field began to nod. "Good. Then…" He glanced around one final time. "Begin!"

If Merlin had thought things were mad before, he'd had no clue. It was little different from watching a true battle—aside from the flags and markers that bordered the field to keep the men within the bounds. Shouts and clangs came from the field, making him wince.

He glanced toward where Arthur stood, frowning. Maybe this was a bad idea. He knew Arthur wanted everyone to get a good look at him, but maybe this wasn't the way to do it? What if someone got in a lucky blow? What if he were badly hurt by one of the brutes he'd be fighting against?

"Stop worrying, Merlin," Gwen said, giving his arm a squeeze. "He'll do fine. He has Excalibur, after all."

Merlin nodded, but he couldn't stop thinking of just how many ways this could all go seriously wrong.

The first men being led off the field helped to distract him. Most received little more than superficial wounds, but often they needed help to get armor off so that Elaine could get at the wound in question, and many needed water to rehydrate.

By the time the battle was over, Merlin was so distracted, he hadn't thought to look up for several hours, and he was unprepared to hear the seneschal's voice announcing the next battle.

Next Part

25307 / 50000 words. 51% done!


Nov. 15th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
Looks good.
Poor Merlin all tense and worried about his Arthur.
Nov. 15th, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
Yesh, he is. Poor boy.
Nov. 26th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
Gods, his worry really is catching. Damn. Got me really worried too!
Nov. 26th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
Mostly it's just nerves, but...yeah. *snugs him*